“When you pray for rain, you gotta deal with the mud too.”
Can you remember Denzel Washington’s performance in “The Book of Eli” ? His coolness and calmness. The grimness. The power he has to move mountains. Approaching his target confidently , his inner tranquility taking over and with extreme precision dealing with his opponents. Shrewdly assimilating the situation, let it sink in for a moment and than act fast accurately. Masterfully, breathtaking to watch and immensely exciting. He also demonstrates these qualities in “The Equalizer”. The only difference is that he’s not completely blind here.
At first sight Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) looks like an ordinary, well-organized man who has an normal job in a hardware store. Apparently he was one of the Pips performing with Gladys Knight in the distant past (according to the plausible explanation of Robert who as a bonus demonstrates a few sultry dance moves as illustration). The fact he has nothing to do with the Pips, quickly becomes obvious. His true identity is not explained completely in detail. It’s evident he had a career as a sort of Special Task Force member which he turned his back on and now runs a meticulously organized and strictly simple life. A sober furnished room with precisely folded bed sheets, a sink that looks spick and span and a daily routine going to a coffee shop with a tea bag tucked in his shirt after a consumed supper and a book in his possession which he puts on the table on the same exact place everytime. He himself is a walking “Wikipedia” who comes up with an appropriate philosophical quote from time to time. So, it’s a militaristic ordered life.
But he also has skills to deal with injustices. It’s as if he gives the criminals of this world, who placed themselves above the ordinary people and act as untouchable individuals who manipulate defenseless civilians, a taste of their own medicine and knock them off their pedestals. A kind of liquidator. Similarly when the face of Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young hooker Robert met in the coffee shop, is being remodelled by her pimp Slavi (David Meunier) (pimped as it were) after which she ends up in the hospital.
When Robert wants to straighten out the situation (by offering Slavi a substantial sum of money, which the Russian of course declines) we finally get what we were waiting for after 30 minutes : no-bullshit action in slow motion with a with precision hitting Washington wiping out a complete Russian gang in about 19 seconds. And apologizing afterwards for it. A beautiful scene with a true avenging angel playing the starring role ! The only drawback is that he has liquidated an important part of the Russian mafia. And of course they are not going to start a Cossack dance. On the contrary. They send Teddy (Marton Csokas), a violent character without emotion and also with deadly skills. He looks after the affairs of a certain Vladimir Pushkin (Vladimir Kulich). A fearsome opponent for McCall with similar qualities.
That things aren’t really believable and the same old clichés are used again, I take that for granted. Washington can set himself as a one-man army and dismantle a Russian gangster mob as a Schwarzenegger, whereby there’s slow motion footage and rousing music. Also the usual characteristics of a revenge movie aren’t eschewed : the simple way of getting rid of a rather well-organized criminal group, explosions in the background (and of course there’s no looking back), again members of the mob who are too dumb for words and are all horrible lousy shooters who’d miss an African elephant even while aiming at it from a meter away and the well-known climax in the end with usage of all available attributes. You know a cliché, you got it. And that the Russians are back, merely has to do with the fact that this is allowed again on an international level. As soon as North Korea stops rocking the boat whenever their country is used in a movie and starts sending threats to certain countries, you can be sure there will be Korean casualties again in future action movies.
Washington is the most suitable man for this part. Just think of the character Joyhn Creasy in “Man on Fire” who leaves a trail of destruction in Mexico city while looking for Lupita. Also the same coolness and determination. He plays those roles with a certain flair, as if they were written specifically for him. His famous “Denzel” -characteristics he uses in each film : the quiet gaze, his typical smile and the icy one-liners. I must admit, I’m a Washington fan. His mutation of a cheerful, helpful and humorous average citizen into an avenger of the top shelf who exhibits sadistic features, is magnificent. And despite her young age, Chloë Grace Moretz shows a lot of maturity. The makeup probably helped with this, but still it’s an excellent interpretation by this young talent. The rest of the cast really looks like a bunch of terrifying mobsters with their upper bodies covered by tattoos, their corrupt spirit and their stone-hard indifference.
Despite the long playtime and the slow storyline, I never felt bored. This action packed revenge movie was over before I knew it. Of course the content is a bit shallow and afterwards you start wondering why the heck there isn’t a global group of such figures as McCall who hunt down organizations worldwide and liquidate them with an arsenal of nail guns. You do get the impression that McCall is a kind of super hero with human vulnerability and that it’s just an intense action movie with some mindless hulks. But it was fun and a hell of a rollercoaster ride …